Interview: Kurt Angle Talks Vince McMahon, Triple H, Chris Benoit & Reveals Retirement Plans

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Kurt Angle’s contract with TNA Wrestling expired just days ago, and the wrestling legend’s career is at a crossroads, with many wondering what his next move will be.  In this exclusive interview with AlternativeNation.net, Angle hints at where his next contract might be, reveals when he will retire, discusses recently speaking with Vince McMahon, reveals Triple H’s real role in WWE, and describes a recent conversation he had with Dixie Carter about TNA’s future on television.  He also discusses Chris Benoit, Eric Bischoff, Vince Russo, Hulk Hogan, an MMA fight he almost had with Randy Couture, and Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling. Also check out our recent interviews with Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Jeff Hardy, and Hornswoggle.

What’s next for you in your wrestling career?

I can’t really say who I’m going with yet or what company I’m going to sign with. I am going to sign, but I’m going to just sign for 1 year, and that’s that. I think I’m pretty much done, I’m just going to have the best year I can have. Hopefully it’ll be my best year, then I’m going to retire.

When do you forsee making an announcement? Because you said before you’d make an announcement sometime in late September.

Yeah, I don’t plan on doing anything until January, so pretty much my contract will expire, and the next one will start in January. My knee has a lot to do with it, with my rehabilitation I won’t be cleared to wrestle until January.

You had said before that your contract expired this month, and you said you don’t have an announcement regarding where you’re going to go. What do you think you’ll be doing for the remainder of the year? Will you appear at Bound For Glory and do more with TNA, or are you basically done with them at this point?

I did TV’s for the next 2 months, we just recorded them last week, so I will be doing more with TNA. My decision to go with the company I’m going to go with, we’re going to pretty much have a press release and set up a press conference, that will be in the next few weeks. The contract should be done, signed, and completed. Wherever I go, it is going to start in January, but I will be doing some stuff for TNA. I will not be at Bound For Glory due to contractual disputes. But the company I’m going to go with, I’m going to give them my best year. I’m going with the company that really wants to take care of me.

For your last year wrestling, what type of schedule do you envision doing? Will you be full time just going completely at it, or for select matches, part time? What time of schedule do you forsee doing for your final year in the business?

I went with the company that was going to really emphasize what I wanted, and that was a limited wrestling schedule. I would say no more than 40 dates a year, that’s what I wanted, that’s where I feel I am at in my career right now. That’s a lot of the reason, like I said, the company that I’m signing with is a company that really wanted to take care of me, both from a wrestling standpoint and a financial standpoint, and I’m very happy with it.

Now is this is a situation where you’ll be signing soon, but haven’t yet?

Yes, the agreement has been made; it’s just that our attorneys have to complete all of the bullcrap that goes with it. Both sides have agreed to it, we’re just waiting for the attorneys to dot the I’s, and cross the T’s.

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When it comes to TNA’s taping schedule, did you find the recent one kind of weird, with 2 months of TV being taped, even after Bound For Glory. Do you find it kind of weird that you may be on TV after your contact having expired with TNA?

I don’t find it weird, I think TNA is in a stage right now – there a lot of rumors on the internet and social media about TNA not having a TV deal domestically. I don’t think it’s an issue of a network not wanting them, I think it’s an issue of where they want to go, where they will be best promoted, where they can expand more worldwide and internationally, with a network that is domestic. I believe that they have a few different offers on the table, they are just trying to be very discreet about which one they want to go with that will be the best fit for them.

TNA signed a deal with UTA to be their representative, and I think it was a great move. Before they just did the deals by themselves, and they needed someone to show them that they had more value, and that they should be a little more choosy about what they do. Not that Spike is a bad decision, but I think the promotion for TNA could be better. We’ve had a great run with Spike, and whether we continue with them or not, it’s really about how the network can promote TNA, outside of just the TV show.

How has management been communicating with you guys regarding the TV deal? Because obviously there’s the extension until the end of December, but reports have come out that TNA will not be staying on Spike after that. Who has been communicating with the talent regarding the status of the TV deal, and letting talent know that negotiations are going on? Has it been Dixie Carter or John Gaburick?

Well at the TV’s we just did, Dixie Carter and ‘Big’ John Gaburick sat the talent down and eased their minds a little bit, because I think a lot of the talent were a little bit confused and nervous regarding what was going on. I had a private sit down with Dixie, she reassured me of what was going on, and what her plans were. It was a good meeting, it was a very positive meeting. She just knows that the next deal that they sign really has to help benefit TNA, in every regard.

When it comes down to it, it is about money, and it is also about how you can get promoted on that network. I won’t say that Spike did a bad job, but I will say that Spike could have done better. If it is going to be Spike, and I don’t know, because Dixie really wouldn’t say who it was, they’re going to have to do a better job. I know that that’s where TNA is right now. They’re in a period where they’re budgeting because they don’t have the money from the network to pay for the TV shows. I believe Panda Energy is funding the show right now, so yes, we’re going to have to do TV tapings in the same city 2 or 3 days at a time until we get to the point where we can go live again, and that will be when the TV deal is done.

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You mentioned that you think that Panda Energy now are funding a lot of the shows, to your knowledge, were Spike ever funding part of your contract?

No, Spike was never funding my contract. It was all done through TNA and Panda Energy. I know there are rumors that they were, obviously due to the amount that I was getting, but I don’t believe that Spike was funding anybody’s contract. I heard rumors that they were funding Hogan, Sting, and myself, but as far as I know from my perspective, I know where my paychecks came, and they didn’t come from Spike.

What are your thoughts on Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, and what it might do for the business?

I think Jeff knows what he’s doing, I think he has enough experience to start another promotion. I’ve never had a problem with Jeff from a business perspective, I think that he can do it. I think it’s going to be that much harder because you already have WWE and TNA, and they’re both obviously here to stay, at least for the next few years. I think that if anybody can do it, it’s Jeff Jarrett.

I know that he has some great people behind him; he has a lot of investors. I also know that he’s already been traveling all over the world, because he knows the best way to keep a company running is TV deals. I know that he’s been around the world and traveling trying to nail down some TV deals, just like TNA has. That is where most of your revenue comes from, you want to say live events help, but if you’re not drawing a certain amount of people, you’re not making money at live events. So when it comes down to it, I think that TV deals are the way you are going to make money.

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Now without revealing how the conversations went with WWE, did you get to reconnect with anybody during this period of your contract coming up? Was there anybody you talked to there specifically about potentially returning?

The only person that I really spoke my piece with, that I had a lot to do with in the past, and the problems I had and the way I left the company, I was able to speak my piece with Vince, and I’m happy with that. As long as Vince and I don’t have any issues, I’m okay with that. What I found out is that Triple H is pretty much running the show now. I didn’t know that, I really believed that Vince would always run the show until the day he died, but now they’re in a position as a publicly traded company where you’re not only answering to Vince and Triple H, you’re also answering to the shareholders.

So there’s a lot of decisions they have to make not just for themselves, but for the people that are invested in the company. So it’s a publicly traded company, and there’s people they have to answer to, but I know when I was there, Vince McMahon never had to answer to anyone. He made the final decision regardless, even when they started as a public company. Now things are a little tougher for them to make chancy decisions. The most important thing is that I got to speak to Vince, and speak my piece with him, and I’m happy with that.

Even if you’re not going back to WWE, could you ever imagine going into the Hall of Fame there? Is that something you discussed with Vince, or no?

Yeah, like I said, I’m not going to say where I’m heading next, but the Hall of Fame would definitely be an option; I’m not going to count that out. It’s a big honor, it would be important to me. Is it the most important thing? No. Obviously being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and International Wrestling Hall of Fame for Olympic style wrestling is the most important thing to me. But it is still important to me, because I’ve definitely made a legacy for myself in pro wrestling, and I take a lot of pride in it, I love the business. The Hall of Fame would be nice. Would it be the end of the world if I wasn’t inducted? No, but it would be an honor.

What were your thoughts on Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff in TNA? A lot of things happened during that era: TNA moved to Mondays during a brief time, they took Impact on the road. Obviously TNA did not grow significantly during that period, but what were your thoughts on what Hogan and Bischoff brought to the table in TNA?

I never had a problem personally with Bischoff and Hogan. I actually love Hulk Hogan, he’s a very good friend of mine, he always will be. With Bischoff, I didn’t have an issue with how he ran the show, I just had an issue with what he did with me personally. When you have a face of a company that is most likely getting paid a lot more than anybody else, and you reduce him to maybe a pretape a show, or one match that is really not significant, and you find out that your top guy in the company is just doing jobs every week. Not that I mind doing that, but there was really nothing behind me.  With that, I kind of gave it that ‘I don’t care’ attitude. I said, ‘They don’t want to do anything with me, then fine, I’ll just collect my paycheck,’ and I’m not that kind of person. So Bischoff, I thought he did a good job, but with me? No, he didn’t. He made me lose my passion, and that’s my fault.

When ‘Big’ John Gaburick came in, John knew the importance of me, and he made me care about it again. I think Dixie Carter made a great move in bringing ‘Big’ in. He knew I was the face of the company, he knew I was a guy he needed to keep, or make me happy. He really has done a great job, he does care about the talent, and he has a vision. Does he have experience in talent relations and creativity? No. But I think him getting everything thrown at him, he’s done a tremendous job. So I applaud Dixie Carter for bringing him in, I think he is the biggest positive step we’ve made in the past couple of years. I think with John Gaburick in charge, the company does have a future.

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What were your thoughts on working with Vince Russo, and what did you think of his recent secret return to the company?

I love Vince Russo, that’s my personal opinion. Vince knew my value, he obviously made me the big topic of the show, he evolved everything around me. Not that I needed to have that all the time, I’m a team players so I’ll do whatever it takes to make the show better, but Vince and I were great. I got along with him as much as I got along with Brian Gerwitz, the writer in WWE. I always speak highly of Vince Russo, I can’t really speak about the issues he’s had with TNA, but my personal issues with him have been very positive and good.

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Speaking of your character, what do you think about the humor from your character kind of going away the last few years?  Like the old tiny hat type bits, is that something you’d like to get back to?

I hope so, I would love to do that. I loved playing that character, but there was a time where Vince McMahon felt it was time for me to take a more serious approach. We kind of went away from that character, and I never really went back, and that was Vince’s call. I’m going to respect whatever he wants, he’s Vince McMahon. He wanted me to be more of an ass kicker, and more of a serious character, and I understood that.

But at the same time, you don’t really have to make an Olympic Gold Medalist, who is a legitimate bad ass, a serious character all of the time because you can do a lot of things with that character, because he really is a legitimate bad ass. Regardless of whether he is a goofball or not, he’s going to go out in the ring and get the job done. So although I agreed with Vince McMahon on making me more serious, there wasn’t any reason why I couldn’t go back to doing the funny stuff. I think wrestling is kind of missing that now, and I really enjoyed that stuff, I really did, especially with Austin.

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Speaking of your comedy work, there was a lot of funny stuff near the end of your WWE run like the bestiality angle with Booker T and Sharmell, I always get a kick out of watching that hype video. Also making Jesus tap out, that promo in 2006 (Kurt laughs). For those types of promos, who was coming up with them, and what were your thoughts on doing them?

I absolutely loved it, it’s what really makes wrestling entertaining. Brian Gerwitz was the writer, he came up with all of my dialog. There was a point in WWE where I couldn’t wait to see what I was doing next; it was just so intriguing and exciting. I have to give a lot of credit to the writers, to Brian and the whole writing team up in WWE. They always came up with something new and fresh, and it was exciting to be able to do that, and it was challenging.

I was never really a goofball (laughs), I was never really a funny person in my life until I started in pro wrestling. For some reason, they thought that that was the direction they wanted to go with me, and I was fine with it. It really brought out a different person inside of me, and showed me that I could do comedy as well as I could do anything else. So I really am glad I did it, I would love to go back to it, I just don’t know if it’s ever going to happen.

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Some of your best work in wrestling, now with the WWE Network, it’s all out there for the fans to see. Some of your work that hasn’t been seen in a long time is your matches with Chris Benoit, they’re all on the Network now, classic matches like WrestleMania 17 and Royal Rumble 2003. What are your memories of working with Chris, and what was your process of putting some of those matches together? Would you wing a lot of it in the ring, or plan a lot of it out? What was your creative process with Chris?

Chris was a very quiet individual, he was an amazing professional. The reason I had so many great matches with Chris Benoit is because him and I mirrored each other. The aggression, and the ability, it was all there. I don’t think there are two wrestlers like him and myself; I don’t think there ever will be. But the reason we had such great chemistry was because of our abilities, but at the same time guys I worked with like Undertaker, Triple H, and Stone Cold really helped me.

At the beginning, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know about psychology, I had a very small repertoire of moves, these guys really carried me through the matches at the beginning, and I listened. I was just a good student; I was a student of the game. The more they showed me, and the more I did in these matches, the more I learned and understood psychology. By the time I had programs with Chris, I was structuring the matches, and Chris allowed me to.

So I’d say 50% of it was structured, and the other 50% we improvised out there. But I pretty much put the structure together and Chris allowed me to, which I thought was great, that he had the faith in me even though I was just a year and a half into the business. A guy like Chris Benoit, who I consider to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, allowed me to do that. It gave me security, because I was making it up, which means the whole structure of the match was in my head all day, I didn’t have to go off the fly. Chris I think was a better wrestler to improvise, so the improvisation in the matches was him, and the structure of the matches were me. When you brought those together, you have an incredible product.

Now when it comes to MMA, obviously you said you’re retiring a year from now, so MMA may never happen for you now, but who would be some fantasy opponents for you in the MMA world, past and present?

The only ones- I wish I could say now, but there’s just no chance of me doing it now. But I’ve always wanted to fight Randy Couture, who was one of my teammates on the Olympic team. I was a big fan of Chuck Liddell, I would have loved to have fought Chuck. Anderson Silva would have been a great challenge; I thought he was pound for pound the best fighter in the world at his peak. Obviously I’d have to lose some weight to fight him, I would be willing to. There are so many great fighters, but I would say the old school guys from when the popularity really started to take off, like Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Chuck Liddell.

It’s a shame that it never happened with Couture. I talked with him a month or so ago, and asked if he was interested in coming into wrestling, and he said no, and obviously you can’t do MMA now (Kurt laughs), so you missed each others paths unfortunately.

We had a fight signed, it just never happened. It was for a promotion out in California, Rico Chiapparelli was in charge of it. We both signed a non disclosure agreement for 3 months, and it just never came to fruition. Then I had Randy ask Dana White to see if there was a possibility of him and I fighting, and we didn’t get any interest from Dana.

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I know this is kind of generic, but in a perfect world where you could be in any promotion, who would you like to wrestle before you retire?

I would say right now the wrestlers are MVP, EC3, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, definitely Rusev is one of the top ones, and last but not least, I think we would probably have the greatest match of all time, and that would be Daniel Bryan.

They have Jack Swagger kind of doing your gimmick right now in WWE, so that might fit you to feud with him.

I would love to do a program with Jack, I just don’t know what they’re doing with him, and what direction they want to go with Jack. He’s talented, I just don’t know if he’s at the level that he could be.